Sep 182015

Meg Ormiston‘s SELU presentation starts with a creative commons image and some energetic chatting about her warm home and being grounded at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.  For me, that’s a great start. She has been an elementary teacher, consultant, adjunct professor, instructional coach etc., and it shows in her presentation.  Her early transition statement: “Enough with the fun stuff, let’s talk about teaching and learning (laughs). Just kidding!…This keynote should come with a warning.  If you are here to sleep, you are at the wrong keynote.”

Concept 1 – Backchanneling

Defined as “a secondary or covert route for the passage of information” – backchanneling used to be passing notes or talking behind someone’s back. Now it is a digital conversation happening as a teacher is teaching. I’ve been using Todaysmeet for a number of years, and Meg asks people to introduce themselves, which is a typical thing to do.  If you are following today, the posts are found at but will be gone within the month. Backchannels are temporary pages.

Meg makes the common argument that students are learning and talking online, and we need to teach them to do it in a safe environment.  She says students will make mistakes and we want to be there to help, making a great connection to digital citizenship skills (see examples of Sask Educators learning about DC in last year’s DCMOOC).

One point she makes about backchannels is that it is best when it is not controlled by the teacher – peers helping each other is super powerful.

Concept 2 – Use the best media for worthy tasks

Meg talks about the gestetners, dioramas, map coloring, and poster boards.  Then she challenges us to find another teacher in the room and talk about an assignment we gave students or our own kids did that we wouldn’t want to see anymore.  Mine was making picture books with my grade 11s.  I actually loved that project and am sad to see it go, but most the time was spent coloring, which wasn’t even an outcome.  As we are talking about change and the places Meg has been where they are 25 years behind with transmission based classrooms, I can feel the push back in the room. As she describes assignments that are new media but regurgitation of facts,  I wish she had framed it with less judgement so it was easier to hear.

Meg points out that we want a couple of  key things (she bases it on SAMR):

  • Redefinition: New tasks we couldn’t do before for an authentic audience “Get it out the door” (view some examples of what a teacher can do to get to redefinition – I am not sure all of these would reach this level without high level questions)
  • Modification: Tech allows for significant task redesign

Less valuable technology tools include:

  • Augmentation: Tech acts as a direct tool substitute, but can do more (i.e. Google Maps versus a paper Map, word processing on a computer versus typewriter)
  • Substitution: Tech acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional improvement

You can read more about this concept either on Kathy Shrock’s awesome blog or  this wiki by Bernajean Porter. For the academics, a bit more detail . One of the key elements of moving things up SAMR to Redefinition or Modification is asking great questions.

Take a look at a sample example from Middle Years students ( who have extended a class project over three years, because they feel it is so important to teach their authentic audience.

Concept 3 – The Value of Creating

Next we broke the internet trying Kahoot.  I didn’t want to because I thought it would just get more of us asking muliple choice and True/False questions.  Good news, that was her point (read a great blog from Bill F. on this subject).  Meg reminded us that we don’t want to be seduced by the tool, we want students to create high level work for authentic audiences.  She did mention that Kahoot would be really good for formative assessment. I would use it (and PollEverywhere) for formative assessment using hinge questions. It provides the advantage of a written record of that my students said, but that they can answer anonymously so it is safe to risk answering when you don’t know.

Meg reminds us we want to focus on extending thinking in Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (see the graphic).  If you are an administrator, you may enjoy this blog, which focuses on how to know if you are seeing it.  It is focused on instructional rounds and I prefer learning walks, but I digress…

Meg reminds us about the power of good teaching that includes the flexibility and power of technology.  I think we want to have the kind of impact she describes, although we struggle with access and everything working.

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